tv Overheard With Evan Smith WHUT January 29, 2013 8:30am-9:00am EST
>> funding for overherd with evan smith is provided in part by the mattson mchale foundation n. support of public television. also by mfi foundation. improving the quaaity of life wwthin our community. and from the texas board of legal specialization, board certified attorneys in your community. experienced, respected, and tested. also by hillco partners. texas gooernment affairs consultancy,,and its global health care consulting business unnt, hillco health. and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation and viewers like you. thank you. >> i'm evan ssith, she's a prolific author, respected academic researchers and former assistant secretary of education, who has been one of the most provocative big thinkers on education in america for decades, she's diane ravich. this is ooerherd.
>> we have fifteen million kids in our country who grow up below theepoverty line. >> most americans want the same thing. >> i realized there weren't a lot of people writing things in my voice, so i realized i had to do it for myself. >> and he said kid i love youu& because. >> we are a better country than we used to be, we have more to do and we need to get at it. >> i would do that, when you wanted to get that buzz you get for working at the absolute top dollar. >> dr., ravich welcome. >> great to be here. thank you. >> very nice to have you here, i thought we might start about a question abouttpresident obama since we're so close to the election, you wrote recently within the last couple of days of the president, quote, he is woefully misinformed about his enonly occasion policies, about the lack of results, about the harmful effect they're having on students and teachers and the quality of education, you went on to say he's not heard the voices of teachers and parents,
he's not changing his policicies, they will fail. these are harsh words. i don't know if i thought you would have been a big critic in of the president. >> i'm critical of no child left behind, which i think is overemphasized testing. >> that was president bush's policy. >> i think it has failed. >> yeah. >> i think the mistake that president obama has made that his policy, race to the top, is built on no child left behind, based on the same assumptions what we need is more carrots and sticks. what this does is it leads to cheating and we've seen lots of cheating in recent yeaas, it leads to narrowing the curriculum, we have schools around the country that are dropping the arts. we have elementary schools that are dropping recess. >> this is all because they've got an emphasis on testing. ttsting because the test scores have become a life or death sentence for their school. instead of -- i think a lot of teachers were extremely
enthusiastic about president obama in 2008, they campaigned out no child left behind,d throw instead he's sensified no child left behind, we are facing nationally a bipartisan educational disaster. >> so your answer to the qqestion are we better off than we were four years ago, at least in an education policy is no. >> well, no, because we still have no child left behind, it's still the law, and more than -- more than half the schools in the country are now considered failing schools, even though they're not failing, some of the best schools in the nation have been abeled failing schools, it's because of this crazy federal law that we have and president obama's policy has demoralized teachers massively across the country, because he's saying that if the test scores don't go up, they should lose their jobs. that they're not good teachers if the test scores don't go up, and that's juut wrong. >> let me -- let me play the testing advocate here against you. >> sure. >> a straw man, but let me let you take a whack at me here. what is wrong with knowing how our kids are doing in school. what's your problem with accountability? >> i think hat testing can be
very valuable when it's used o help kids. i think it can be very valuable when it's diagnostic, when you can give johnny or maria a test and say, you know, we need more -- you need more help here, you can even say the teacher needs more help, the student needs more help, it can be a very valuable tool to inform instruction. whht it's been turned into under no child left behind is an accountability measure which is not designed to be in which schools are closed, teachers are fired, principals are fired. and it's up ending american unpublic education. what no child left behind says in the law is by the year 2014, 2014,100% of children in your school must be proficient, so we have failing schools all over the country, there's no country in the world where 100% of the children are proficient. >> leave aside the 100% issue. >> that is a big question. would 90% be adequate for you? if thh 100% is the problem, then why not ratchet it down to a more reasonable number.
>> forget the ratcheting, how about talking about the children. you have to understand something about the test, these are not measures that are like thermometers or barometers or yarddticks, the tests are filled with alllkinds of errrr. i spent 7 years on the federal -útesting board. statistical errors, random errors. some of them are good, some f them are bad, but in every test you will find questions where you would say, gee, a really smart child might choose the wrong answer because the right answer is the one that most might choose but it's not necessarily the best answer. >> yeah. >> there are questions sometimes that have two answers. some of them don't ven have a right answer. i've seen these, many, many times. >> isn't that the nature of testing generally, whether it's standardized testing or just testing in class. why is it particular to standardized testing but not testing generally. the problems we're identifying. >> it's the nature oo the tests that we have today, the standardized tests. there are four -- there are four answers, only one of them is right. >> yeah. >> and we are -- what we're doing now is we have children channeled, basically from
kindergarten through 12th grade, to think that life consists of choosing one out of four answers. aad this is bad preparation for college, because moss colleges don't go by standarddzed tests anyway. in college, and in live, you have to figure things out. you have to realize that you are often given choices between not a rrght answer or wrong answer, but choosing -- >> it's relative. >> choosing an issue where you have the balancc the priorities. what's more important to you? make a decision. think about it. >> right. >> standardized tests don't invite you to think. they invite you to choose one out of four bubbles. so in effect whaa we're doing is we're discouraging the die divet thinking. we're punishing them for thinking difffrently, and we're saying if you're a conformist, if you know how to pick the right answer, you succeed, what are we doing to our society? what are we doing to whole generation's ability to think critically n college -- in good colleges, they expecc you to think critically, not pick one out of four bubbles. >> one of the big issues as you
know with these tests is that a lot of time is taken during the úchool year to prepare students for this test t defenders f testing will say, wwll, what they're doong in preparation for the test is learning the things they ought to be learning, isn't this great. >> no, actually it's not. because if you talk to testing experts they will say that a test is just a slice -- a small slice of what you're learning. it's a snapshot. and a test ssould consume maybe one percent of the school year. it should be given to, again, diagnostic purposes, find out whether johnny needs more help, more support, remediation, whatever. we are now devoting in some districts across this country, 20% of the school year, 25% of the school year. we are making testing the point of education, and turning testing into the goal of education. the education is not to produce higher test scores. the goal of education is to produce citizens who can sustain our democracy into the future. the most important things in education has to dd with character. have to do with the values you
learn. the ability to work with others, your ability to think through problems, and come uu with a reasonable solution, not the right answer, but a reasonable solution, based on the evidence at hand. these are critical thinking skills. that's not what you get from tessing. we are overtesting, then we're taking these tests and saying if you have a high test score, you're a success. no, i don't think so. >> you're a success on the test. >> right. >> you're not necessarily a success ffom the standpoint of being educated. >> right. >> how are we to measure the success of our schools in the absence of these test. how are we going to get a fair metric if we don't have tests. >> there's a group of schools in new york that have dealt with that issue. there's some 28 school, they got exempted from the state testing about fifteen years ago, what they've discovered is they've tracked the students, they have exactly the same students in terms of hispanic, black, white, asian, limited english proficient, special ed, poverty, et cetera. exactly the same as regular public schools, they have a higher graduation rate for every one of these groups. they have a higher college
entrance rate and they have a higher college persistent rate. theseeare more successful schools than the schools that are testing, testing, testing, testing. their students are more successffl. that's one way. i'd say that voter participation is another way. >> voter participationn >> yeah. >> oh, ggd, if you could solve that problem, you could have whatever you want. >> what we're about with education is developing good citizens and the test scores don't tell us that. >> do you have a problem with all end of course exams? you don't like the advanced placement test either, i'm assuming if you don't like these standardized tests. >> i'm not opposed to all testing. i'm opposed to the misuse of testing. >> are you opposed to the big corporate built testing regimen? i know the pearsons of the world, the people who have built this into an industry. >> yeah. >> my -- my gut sense is you don't think too much of hose guys. >> well, what conccrns me about pearson is that they're buying every aspect of the educational process. >> how's that. >> they're buying the teacher performance assessment belongs to pearson, the ged belongs to
pearson, the testing belongs to pearson, it's hard to think they have pearson colleges in eke land, it's as though we've outsourced our brains to pearson. >> do you have any problem with those people in particular or their philosophy of education, or you don'' like the idea that it's monopolistic. >> i don't like staadardized testing. >> and standardized test makers are problematic by extension. >> they have a lot of 0 money in the game n. texas you're paying almost $500 million for a ffve year contract. new york state has a five year contract for 32000000, with pearsoo, and i'm wondering are we getting your left over test questions? >> well, job the answer -- i don'ttknow the answer to that. >> or we just negotiated a better deal in texas. you've got very powerful lobbyists in theestaae of texas. >> there are occcsional powerfuu lobbyists, that's true. i've heard you say the test takers -- the test makers should be required to take the test they make. >> no, no did the test makers. there are some ppople in very high public office, like governors and -- [laughter] -- and, know, state
commissioner of education, they think that the testing is great, and i would say that there ought to be written into law, if úou're an advocate for high stakes teeting. >> right. >> you must take the 8th gradde& math test and publish your score. >> and see if they -- see if they pass. >> absolutely. >> might actually make thht -- make it into a game show. are you smarter than rick perry? are you smarter thanndrew cuomo. we could measure ourselves against the elected officials. tests has been such a big part of the debate not only in states but at a national conversation at a level above the states there are other big issues in play. one of them we alludee to was spending on public education. in a lot of the states there's an ngoing debate about whether the correlation spending per student and those that think there is, there are others who say actually you can throw as much money as you want at the problem and not solve it, where do you come down onnthat? >> well, i come down on saying what you're spending money on
matters a great deaa. >> what you're spending money on. -ú>> yes, what you're spenning money on. and there's a lot of things úou're not spending enough money -úon, i probably end up spending morr than we're spending now. >> for instanne. >> early childhood education is very, very important. we talk a lot in this society about the achievement gap, the achievement gap begins before the first day of kindergarten, if we want to reduce the achievement gap, we would spend more money on kids before they get to kindergarten. >> right. >> i'm absolutely sold on the idea that it would be a tremendous important and valuable investment to make sure that every woman who becomes pregnant has good pre-natural care, and that is -- well is that education. >> that is not really an education issue. >> yes, its is an education issue. because when women have babiis born to them and thhy've not had deeent pre-natal care, very often most children are born with developmental delays, cognitive deficiencies, they then become special education, we pay hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars go each one of those children for the rest of their schooling when we could have just provided them
pre-natal care in the beginning and made sure that the children were born healthy, i think another important education investment would be to make sure there's a school nurse in every school, there's a health clinic children can go to, when children are healthy, they're eddie to learn. many years ago when i worked for the first president bush, we had national goals and goal number one was children should arrive in school ready to learn. that has got to do with pre-natal care, earll childhood education. -úbut the children's health isse is critical throughout the whole spectrum. >> there are things that the schools or the school districts or the state for that matter simply cannot control, you cannot control the family situation, you cannot control the socioeconomic circumstances of a lot of theee kids, not every kid shows up at the sshool door equal. >> right. >> so how much of responsibility does publii education has as answer institution have to reach ootside the classroom into the home and play essentially surrogate parents. >> i don't think that schools can be surrogate parents, you made an important point that i would make again and again about all the people who go around
complaining about how american public education is broken. american public education is not broken, but i would say that our society, a big part of it, is broken. we have 25%%of our kids living in poverty. the schools didn't cause that. there is no other advanced nation in the world that has 25% of its kids living in poverty. and what the tests show, you know, you talk about should the test be the measure, what the tests are is a mirror of socioeconomic disparity t rich kids invariably are overpopulated at the top and the poor kids arr overpopulated at the bottom. >> rich kids aren't smarter. >> no, they're not smarter. they're not smarte dumb rich kids at the bottom for sure. >> yeah. >> you will find some really smart poor kids who manage to the testt whether you look at theesat or the act, all of these tests have the same disparity. poor kids at the bottom. rich kids aa the top. >> if you want to fix education, you mighh do well fixing the poverty problem. >> to the extent we can reduce
poverty, we will see scores go up, oddly enough, there is a connection. the test, if you think about what they do, the mayor error the socioeconomic disparity, the more income and equality we have, the wider the test score disparity, when we talk about the international tests and all the -- you know, you will hear these politicians or people who arr bashing the public schools say, oh, we are number hatever it is, number 12, 16, whatever. >> yeah. >> our low poverty schools, the kids in those schools are number one in the world. their test scores on the latest inteenational tests are above those of korea, japan, finland, you know, the highest performing nations in the world, our low poverty schools were above them, even in schools where 25% of the kids are in poverty, they have scores equivalent to the highest performing nations. >> what does that tel tell you? >> the more poverty, the lower the scores, a we ignore poverty, we're aying to the school we're going to let these social problems fester and then blame you because kids aren't
learning because they're sick, because they're homeless, they're hungry, they have a parent in jail. you know, terrible things hhve happened in their life, and neighborhood and we ignore all those problems and blame the schools. >> another way that we talk about poverty and education is, well, we need choice, the problem here is that if the kid is going to a failing school, we ought to give the parents the opportunity to move that kid to a school that works, you're not a big ffn of choice. >> i'm not a fan of choice and i used to be. >> well, you used to be a fan of no child left behind also. >> yes. you were before it before you were against it. >> i was before things before they were tested. once they were test and the evidence wws in, i'm basically an evidence-based person, and i -- i said, you know, no child left behind sounded like a good idea. we test every child every year. and then i. >> what could go wrong. >> we found out what coold go wrong, we're fattening the testing company and emposer irising the schools. >> what changed you on choice. >> i add advocated for the
testing in 1998 in the new york state legislature, in the past, then we began getting charters, they don't on average get better results than regular public schools, many of them that do get high scores are keeping out special ed ids with severe disabilities, many of them are keeping out english language learners, they don't have the same population, they're skimming, this is not true of all, there are some good charter schools at the top, terrible charter schools at the bottom, what we know is charter schools don'ttget etter results than public schools, as i see it now, this is based on 40 years of study, as a historian, we are developing a dual school system. now, we, with the brown decision, upreme court said can't have a dual school system. we're moving back to having a dual schooo system. it will be a dual school system based on class. >> as opposed to race. >> yeah. >> the states would say this is our right and our opportunity, our responsibility, we should --
there shouldn't be a mandate against this stuff, anythiig that might work leave us alone, these are the laboratories -- the laboratories of the country. >> there is a fundamental belief in this country, or has been for many generation, that public education was a public responsibility, as we privatized public education, we will see more segregation, and we will -- we ill destroy an essential democratic institution of oor society. i look back to my own sccooling in the houston public schools, it was completely segregated then the school system like many school systems tried to have an all choice system which minute takens segregation, for a long úime choice was a dirty word because it meant a reduce for getting around the brown decision, now choice is back in favor of, you know, we should choose because we have this terrible public school system, one thing i want to mentionn& this, there is a great lie thaty is being promulgated about public education in america, the grrat lie is that our public school system is failing.
thissis all nonsense. if you care about test scores, as so many people do these days, the only longitudinal measure we have is the federal test, they've been given now for 40 years. aaerican test scores, today, are the highest they've ever been in history. they're the high evident ever in history for white students, for black students for hispanic students and for asian students. if you care about graduation rates, they're the highest they've ever been in history. if you look at the age group from 18 to 24, all of this on the u.s. department of education website. >> yep. >> 90% of kids, of young people from 18 to 24 have a high school diploma. >> who is not telling us the truth. >> people who say that our system is failiig. út's not failing. >> because it's in their interest for it to be faiiing. >> because they want to say, and this is the recommendation that comes out again and again, system is failing, failing, faaling, we need choice. we need vouchers, we need úharter schools, we need to get -- >> they're advocating for their public interest. >> and in some case, some cases
it's people who want to make money. >> right. >> and some cases it's people who just have an ideological officer advisor for choice and some cases it's people who are idealistic and who believe that the public schools are failing when they're talkkng about failing schools, they're talking about schools enrolling kids from high poverty homes. the schools aren't faaling, but the society around them is failing. and those kids need more resources, they need smaller class, they need more arts in their schools, there's specific things we can do to help those and help the kids in them,better instead we're closing their schools and disbursing the kids >> we have elected officials who have to stand for reelection every couple of years, if the parents and community members who are with you are so outraged -úat the way public education is not being run properly, why do those people get reelected time and again? why -- why haven't parents become their own version of the tea party or education activists -- obviously the pitch forks and torches are not the
exclusive province of the right. >> right. >> you could have another movement to advocate for your side. >> here is what i think has happened. we have had now 20 or more years of bashing public education in america. it's like a party gang go say how terrible the public schools are, even though they're the basic understand the institution of our society, where 90% of the kids are in school, let's not forget, we happen to have the most successful society in the world. the most powerful economy in the world t greatest technological innovation in the world. the greatest creativity in the world, this is a great, great society, and yet people are saying -- and yet hat institution that edge cates 90% of our citizens is deficient, that is nonsense for all the reasons i just gave you. if you look at stuff like the gallop poll, the gallop poll saysspeople have very low confidence in american education. i think that if you hear this -- these claims made again and again and again over a 20 or 30 year period, begin to say, gee, our public education. >> it erodes people's perception
what's going on. >> yeah, what about the school you know best, what about the school in your own community, what about the own school your child attends. 77% give their own public school an a or a b, which is the highest ever in the history of the gallop poll. >> like congress. people don't like congress but they like their member t worst thing you can say about public education is to compare it to congress. we haae about three minutes úeft, dr. ravich. i want to ask you about teachers teachers have often become the target of a lot of people's hostility on thhs. the problem is the teacher's unions, the problem is bad teachers. they're paid, you know, to do a job, they don't do a good enough job. where do you come down on the question. we had a teacher strike in chicago that was a little bit more than a week. >> i think that the teachers in this country do an incredible job. i think they that work under very difficult circumstances. they get very little public support. they get very little recognition
for how hard their job is. this is hard job. i thinkkthey're generally underpaid. i notice that when people complained about the chick chico teachers making $75,000 a year, they didn't complain about the referees making $150,000 a year, and referees have a uch easier job than teachers. >> maybe the replacement teachers would have done as bad job as the replacement refs. >> let me just say, there is a lot of money, many billionaires are investing money in this movementtto privatize american public education. >> name them. >> phillip ancha produced two movies now, waiting for super man, won't back down, both of them ntended to demonize the teacher's union, looking at úhere is the highest performing states in the u.s. they're union states, if you look at the nations that have the ighest performing school systems like finland, the 100% union, the teachers and the principals all belong to the same union, unions are nottthe problem. what we need to do to improve public education is to bring people around their schools, to
bring the parents, the teachers, the kids, working together, and also to have the public recognizing that the schools alone are not responsible, families bear a very large responnibility for making sure that their kids are ready, and society bear as responsibility to make sure that there's good health care and frankly that we do something to act on poverty and segregation which are toxic elements in our society. >> are you hopeful, about the future, you know, this fight -úwill continue. >> you know what makes me -- i mean it sounds strange to say this. i believe. i don't know if it's hopefulness, but i believe that all the things that are being done now under the name of accountability, and also the privatization movement will fail because othing that they're doing succeeds, the charter schools don't outperform public school, the voucher schools don't outperform public schools. merit never worked anywhere. evaluating teacherr by test scores have negative effects. the public will wake up to this and i think at some point we will see a major turn around.
i believe that. i don't know if it will be in y lifetime. but it will be in the next few years. but it will happen, when they understand the threat to public education and that the public schools belong to the public, not to entrepreneurs, not to hedge fund managers, not to billionaires, then i think we will see a see surgence of public support for public education gilet's been a pleasure to sit acrosssyou, hear you talk about this stuff, thank you for your good work. appreciate you being here. >> thank you. -ú>> thankkyou very much. [ applause ] >> we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at klru.org /overherd to find interviews, q and a's with our audience and guests and an archive of past episodes. >> in california you get it from the left and texas you get it from the right. so what happens is the publishers take out everything that is controversial, kids are reading the blandest possible stuff, they think that history is boring. really history is
very exciting if you leave some of that stuff in. funding for overherd with evan smiih is provided in part by the mattson mchale foundation, in support of public televisson, also by mfi ffundation, within our community. of life and from the texas board of legal speeialization, board certified attorneys in your community. experienced, respected, and tested. also, by hillco partners. texas government affairs consultancy, and its global health care onsulting business unit hillco health. and by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation, and viewers like you. thank you.